Lucinda Childs is one of America’s most important modern choreographers. Of her work, which is often described as conceptual dance, she has said, “My dances are an intense experience of intense looking and listening.”
Childs was born in New York City in 1940. In her second year at Sarah Lawrence College, she took a class with visiting professor Merce Cunningham. After she completed her degree, she went on to study at the Cunningham Studio. There she met Yvonne Rainer, who went on to cofound (with Steve Paxton) the influential Judson Dance Theater and invited Childs to be one of Judson’s original company members. Describing this period, Childs has said, “Nothing is necessarily extraneous to dance, including the professionally trained dancer’s susceptibility to the influence of nonprofessionals. The Judson Dance Theater concerned itself with this idea... materials as objects combining dance phrases with movement activity in relation to objects...a unified idiom of action, but a cumulative trend of activity that did not follow along one isolated scheme.” After she formed her own company in 1973, Childs collaborated with Wilson and Glass on Einstein on the Beach, participating as leading performer and choreographer. (She also took part in the opera’s revivals in 1984 and 1992). It was during rehearsals for Einstein that Childs and Glass came up with the original idea for the 1979 landmark Dance, which she choreographed and he scored, and to which Sol LeWitt contributed a film/décor. In a Washington Post review of Dance, Alan M. Kriegsman wrote, “a few times, at most, in the course of a decade a work of art comes along that makes a genuine breakthrough, defining for us new modes of perception and feeling and clearly belonging as much to the future as to the present. Such a work is Dance.”
Along with Glass, LeWitt and Wilson, Childs has worked with such artists, composers, and directors as John Adams, Frank Gehry, Henryk Górecki, Robert Mapplethorpe, Terry Riley, and Iaanis Xenakis. Childs received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1979, the year she created Dance. She is also the recipient of the NEA/NEFA American Masterpiece Award, and in 2004 she was elevated from the rank of Officer to Commander in France’s Order of Arts and Letters.